(available on X Box One and PC)
(PC version used for Review)
Ori and the Blind Forest has been a game I played through rather recently picking up the game in a Nintendo e shop sale and already it’s in at least my 20 favourite games if not top 10. It’s an excellent example of both a precise platformer and a Metoirdvania with a story that really kept my interest with very minimal dialogue of the small guardian spirit saving a forest from decay and a giant owl named Kuro. The original was a pioneer in both story telling and graphics being one of the best looking games if on both the Xbox One and the Switch with a real style of it’s own with clear influences from classic films from studios like Pixar and Ghibli. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is the follow up which has been at every single X Box conference for the last 3 years at E3 before finally releasing in March. Moon studios has clearly put a lot of time and effort into expanding the world and gameplay of Ori so how does it play.
Spoiler warning for the end of Ori and the Blind Forest
Ori and the Will of the wisps takes place just after the restoration of the forest after Kuro sacrificed herself to save the forest and restore order at the end of the last game and life has settled back to normal. The family has welcomed the new edition of Ku the small owl that hatched from the egg from Kuro’s nest and we see the friendship between Ori and Ku grow. During Ku first successful flight she and Ori are split and end in a new forest which has been ravaged by the villainous Shriek and Ori must now travel across this forest to restore life to it to save it’s residents and Ku
The story itself is somehow even better with a lot more characters this time round for interaction purposes to further the plot which I initially thought would take away from the great level of isolation that the first game gave but it actually makes the world feel lived in and gives a sense of urgency to restore the forest to its former glory and I was really eager to keep going with the main story to see what happens next. This is particularly highlighted by a side quest to restore a village which requires getting resources through exploration. I also really appreciate that this game has a very well-made environmental message which doesn’t smack you over the face, like the last game the environment itself becomes the main enemy for most of the time. The world feels a bit bigger this time round with far more areas to explore with once again a lot of variety of environments which challenge you in new ways. you get a lot of your old move set back along with some new abilities and once again it’s used to make some of the best trail and error precise platforming challenges that reward succeeding when taking risks and it will require good knowledge and improving your skills in the game. trust me when you die it’s going to feel like your fault and not the games fault. It’s also not much longer with a play time of about 10-15 hours depending on how much of the extra side quests that have been added. The game doesn’t overstay it’s welcome in that time and the game has excellent replay value with playing the game with various difficulties as well
- The story: I’ve gone on a lot about the story but the Pixar and Ghibli influence really does extend to the emotion of the story. this game is going to give you “the feels” for a long time.
- Controls: the controls in this game I think might be better this this time round where I rarely make a misfire and it goes worse from me getting flustered. This was an occasional occurrence but to have to say it’s way less frequent this time round. It’s still quite difficult in parts but it’s going to feel rewarding succeeding and the improved controls meant I was going to guides way less.
- Combat: this was something that wasn’t as good as it could be the first-time round but has been greatly improved. I’m not the first reviewer to mention the similarity to Hollow Knight with this game but it bears mentioning that there likely was a few Hollow Knight fans on the development team and it does play similar in that regard. That being said having a great combat system that fist within the playstyle since you have the more immediate light javelin as your main weapon as opposed to the projectile of the first game has been a welcome change and means I’m way less worried taking part in combat and it feels like it fits in well with platforming gameplay. I was worried when I saw boss fights were being added to the game since I thought it meant the excellent escape sequences would be gone but fortunately they are still in the game and are still excellent.
- Exploration: the world is a joy to explore which really rewards you for going out of your way and finding hidden areas and you likely will not leave an area until you see the 100% marked off yon your map.
- graphics: while it hasn’t been a major upgrade there is a noticeable improvement in the look of this game and this is now one of the best-looking games of this generation. Ku’s first flight is a sequence that is a sight to behold to say the least.
- Soundtrack: Ori and the Blind Forest has one of my favourite video game soundtracks and Will of the Wisps compliments it brilliantly. Once again, all the music fits the scenes and environment perfectly and it’s another one I’m going to listen to a lot
- The new skill based system: I really like the new skill upgrades you can get to your skills in platforming and combat, which once again is similar to Hollow Knight, is a welcome edition and adds extra incentive to explore the environment to build up your skill s for later quests. It also works out well having the ability to equip and unequip certain skills and weapons for certain scenarios and your preferred gameplay styles
- still can be a bit of a guide game: this depends on your tolerance for being stuck but while instances of needing a guide are reduced you won’t be completely avoiding them to help you through a puzzle. That said because of the nature of the game just looking at the guide doesn’t always help your skill still is a required factor
- the keyboard and mouse controls: I really like the controls using an Xbox but I hate the keyboard and mouse controls of the PC version. Ori’s gameplay was meant for the Xbox controller and it was really difficult adjusting to keyboard since it had me having to stretch my fingers for certain sections and I wasn’t able to adjust mid action sometimes which is required for a game like this. If you get the PC version make sure you sync or plug in an Xbox controller to the PC to play the game well.
moon studios have seriously impressed me with this entry given their set up. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is going to be a contender for my game of the year. it takes what was already a great game and somehow improves on it giving us a sequel that is a credit to everyone involved and things that were already great but somehow improves on it. I wold recommend playing Blind Forest before this if you haven’t already but this is somehow an even better game and I said that not going in with the expectation that would not be the case.
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